Chaga is a fungus that is commonly found on birch and other trees, the conk of the mushroom (the part you would see attached to the tree) has an irregular shape and looks like burnt charcoal.
The name chaga comes from its russian name given to it by the people where it is indigenous in the Kama River Basin near the Ural Mountains. It may also be referred to as black mass, clinker polypore birch kanker polypore, cinder conk and sterile conk trunk rot of birch.
It grows in cold climates such as Northern Europe, Siberia, Russia, Korea, Northern Canada and Alaska.
It can also be grown on cultivated mediums which results in some differences to the quality of the chaga. Cultivated Chaga often has lower amounts of phytosterols like lanosterol that may help lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk.
For centuries people in Russia and Northern Europe have used chaga as a traditional medicine. Mostly as a way to improve overall health and support the immune system. It’s use has now spread across the world in supplement form. Though most studies on chaga are on mice or test tubes, some studies do indicate that chaga extract may provide some health benefits. More extensive research is still needed on this mushroom.
Chaga extract may positively impact the immune system by reducing long-term inflammation and fighting harmful bacteria and viruses. It also stimulates white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off infections.
Chaga contains the antioxidant triterpene, which may help protect cells from damage by free radicals and may help fight cancer. However, human studies are needed to make any strong conclusions about chaga's anticancer potential.
Recent studies have found that eating chaga mushrooms can reduce LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides, while increasing "good" HDL cholesterol. These findings suggest that reducing LDL cholesterol through small dietary changes could help protect your heart health.
Chaga Side effects and risks
If you have a general mushroom allergy, you should avoid chaga, but in rare cases, an individual might also have an allergy to only chaga. Chaga is well-tolerated by most people, however no human studies have been done to determine a max safe dose.
Chaga should be consumed with caution with insulin or other blood sugar affecting medications. It also may interfere with blood-thinning medications. Discuss with your doctor and avoid Chaga if you are preparing for a surgery.
Chaga Mushroom Recipes
Chaga is too tough and woody to cut and use in meals. Instead chaga mushroom powder can be added to smoothies, juice, cereal, and yogurt. Commonly it is consumed as chaga tea or chaga mushroom coffee.
It is common to mix Chaga with other functional mushrooms like Lion’s Mane, Reishi or Cordyceps for additional benefits. Chaga mushroom powders can be purchased from many online stores or health food stores.
Making Chaga Mushroom Tea
To get the most out of chaga tea, it should be prepared more like a soup. Add the chaga powder in teabag or loose chunks to a pot of simmering water for 10-15 minutes. This will give it enough time and heat to extract all the beneficial compounds.
If this is something you would like to try, consider making a larger pot and simmer for up to 2-3 hours.
Strain the tea. It’s best consumed while it’s still hot but you can keep it in the fridge for up to 7 days and use it in a cold drink.
Making Chaga Mushroom Coffee
The easiest way to make Chaga Coffee is to add a teaspoon of chaga powder to your coffee. An alternative way is to use the Chaga Mushroom Tea as the water to brew your coffee.
On a hot day, make it an iced-coffee.
Chaga Mushroom Powder
Chaga mushroom powder is produced by drying and grinding the whole mushroom, while chaga mushroom extract powder is produced by extracting the mushroom's polysaccharides using hot water. Chaga mushroom extract powder can come in different varieties of strengths.
Using chaga mushroom powder can be a quick and easy way to consume this mushroom. You can either make the powder yourself or purchase it from a reputable vendor.
Chaga Mushroom Products
Chaga is increasingly being used in ready to drink formats such as Psychedelic™️ Microdose. Lots of exciting new products are using this interesting mushroom for its benefits.